Contrary to what a lot of websites are saying, Windows 12 isn’t released, even in beta, and Microsoft has said little about it. All that we have today are a few leaks and rumors.

OK with that disclaimer out of the way there are a few things Windows 12 facts and features we are almost certain of:

1 – What is Windows 12 Code Named

Windows 12 was code-named Next Valley in 2022 but in 2023 we started hearing Windows 12 being referred to as Hudson Valley. Fun Fact: Windows 11 was codenamed “Sun Valley”.

2 – What Does The Windows 12 Desktop Look Like

The most visually interesting Win 12 change was gleaned from the image below which was taken from a slide deck from Microsoft’s Ignite conference in 2022:

Windows 12 From Ignite 2022

Again, Microsoft did NOT say this was a Windows 12 desktop but it was hyped around the globe as a Windows 12 leak. However, what we see here makes sense. Look a bit closer and it does show some very interesting design elements:

Click to Expand Graphic

Windows 12 Desktop GUI Design Elements

Put simply, it looks like they’re going to make Windows 12 look more like Mac OS. staff think that’s a very bad thing because we can’t stand the detached title bar and the ever shifting icons on Apple MacOS operating systems, but many people seem to like it.

Another way to look at this Win12 desktop UI is that it will be more mobile looking.

Whichever way you want to describe it is fine, and you can decide if you like it or not.

As long as Microsoft doesn’t pull their Windows 11 stunt of removing Taskbar features like Combine, and they let us set it to look like Windows 10, we are fine with the change.

3 – What New Features Are In Windows 12

There is absolutely no doubt AI will play a big part in Windows 12. New AI features just added to Windows 11 like background removal in the Photos app and character recognition in the Snipping Tool, will be dwarfed by new AI enhanced features like:

  • Having AI determine the separate the objects in an image, to allow you (or even encourage you) to copy/paste just the part of the image you want
  • Photo merging in which two (or more) photos can be combined into one with AI automatically deciding what to keep
  • Trend analysis of your usage patterns
  • Face, Place and Feature Recognition in image galleries, allowing you to ask Windows 12 to return all the “pictures of Joe in the mountains on a red bike”
  • Color and light correction / enhancement in graphics and photos
  • Financial analysis of web content

4 – What is the Big Architectual Change In Windows 12

In a word, modularity. In two words, Microsoft calls it “State Separation”. Windows 12 will likely create several drive partitions to improve stability, security, and performance, to allow it to run on fundamentally different hardware (i.e. ARM vs Intel CPU’s).

This will substantially improve patching by reducing the number of reboots required to keep your system up to date.

The Operating System, program files, program configuration files, patching files, and user data could each be on separate volumes as shown in the image below:

Windows 12 Modularity state separation

5 – What Technical Advances Will Windows 12 Have

The two notable changes to Windows 12 tech will be serious AI integration that will be optimized for the latest new CPUs and GPUs.

  1. Intel has used brute force to improve their CPU’s by just making them faster but they have not had a serious redesign since multicore CPU’s were released more than a decade ago. That is about to change with Intel’s AI focused Meteor Lake CPU’s released in December 2023 (i.e. now!), which means they will be widely available by summer 2024.
  2. Apple claims they have an advantage over Microsoft and Intel because they have intimate connections between their new proprietary ARM based CPU’s and MacOS. This is probably true and so Microsoft will be working even harder to take advantage of new advanced features in new chips.

In particular there is no doubt that unlike Windows 10 / 11 that have superficial tie-ins to artificial intelligence, Windows 12 will be designed assuming artificial intelligence focused CPUs / GPUs are in place, at least in some versions.

6 – When Will Windows 12 Be Released To Manufacturing (RTM)

Microsoft used to release operating systems every three years and the release of Windows 11 signaled they were returning to the old release cadence. Windows 11 was released in 2021 so 2024 is a pretty good bet for Win12.

Then the question is what month will they release Windows 12? Because Windows 12 will be little more than Windows 11.1 under the covers and they will be upgrading it for the next 4 years, they could release it at anytime but it would be logical to RTM in September so Dell, HP and other OEMs can hit the Christmas market. Of course it’s possible they would release in June so they could hit the back to school market But given the lack of chatter as of December 2023, we think that would be too fast.

7 – What Versions of Windows 12 Will There Be

We can say for certain that there will be a major focus of running Windows 12 on new ARM chips. Microsoft is certainly not abandoning Intel but it sees that ARM is a global juggernaut right now and it’s publicly developing to support arm CPU’s.

There are more than rumors that Microsoft is testing substantially different versions of Windows 12 on different hardware. In addition to releasing the usual Home, Pro, and Enterprise lines, they may have versions that are optimized for specific tasks. For instance, there could be a “Windows 12 Pro Creative” which is coded for AI enhanced CAD or graphics packages.

There is also Microsoft’s “CorePC” project which is “silicon-optimized” for AI and massively reduces overhead by stripping legacy features:

To make legacy (i.e. non-cloud) apps work, an OPTIONAL compatibility layer, currently codenamed “Neon”, could be installed.

Then there is “Windows School”, not to be confused with Windows Education. Education is little more than Windows Enterprise with licensing designed for colleges and universities. Windows School, on the other hand, is targeted at high schools and elementary schools to fight the ChromeBook invasion in that market. It is reported that Windows 12 School:

  • is about 75% smaller than the base Windows 11
  • has MS Edge browser (Chrome based)
  • Office Apps that heavily integrate with the cloud
  • allow Android apps to be installed
  • will run on cheap ARM processors
  • is already in internal testing

Personally, we think that is unlikely many custom builds will be released but the Internet is full of people talking about it, so perhaps we are wrong.

8 – Will Windows 12 Require a Subscription

Eventually Microsoft will get their Windows desktop product to sell like their Microsoft Office 365 suite does, through a subscription, but that will not be in Windows 12. Large corporations can already subscribe to Microsoft licensing subscriptions but there is no way Microsoft will promote that to consumers and small businesses anytime soon. There is just too much change in the market for Microsoft to risk losing market share to MacOS or Chrome by forcing a subscription only model.

9 – What Features Are Removed From Windows 12

Microsoft was removing an average of three features per year, until 2023 when they removed 16. Many of the features that they have been deprecating were legacy features that were from the 1990s Windows NT days. Things like SMB 1.0 and TLS 1.0 and the Computer Browser service, which were already disabled by default have been flat out removed. Hackers love these old functions because they provide an attack vector.

We can expect that Windows 12 will remove even more of these old products and features like:

  • .NET 3.5
  • DirectPlay
  • Media Player (Legacy)
  • Microsoft XPS Document Writer
  • PowerShell 2.0

It is likely that the legacy Control Panel will finally be removed. At a minimum we expect it will be disabled by default.

Microsoft tried to replace CMD with PowerShell, but not all commands worked in PowerShell. Also PowerShell was not as extensible as some had promoted it. Windows 11 saw the release of the Windows Terminal which can even run Linux BASH commands. As such we expect the old CMD.EXE to be disabled by default.

10 – Widgets Widgets Everywhere

We will not be using these but it appears that little apps that can be dragged around on your desktop and made to stay on-top of your programs, will definately be available. In fact, available is an understatement. Expect that AI will be used to guess which apps you might like (and which ones Microsoft is paid to suggest). Remember how Candy Crush links were pre-installed on Windows 10, expect more of that, but not just at the time of initial installation.

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